The High Income Earner’s Ultimate Guide To Surviving Divorce: Part I
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The word divorce carries such negative connotations with it (and rightfully so).
No one goes into a marriage thinking they will ever get divorced.
Statistics show however that ignorance is not bliss as the divorce rate is around 40% for first time marriages, 60% for second marriages, and almost 75% for third marriages.
I truly wish I had no firsthand knowledge of this topic but unfortunately I do.
I have previously described my own horrific divorce story, which was truly the darkest chapter of my life both financially and emotionally.
The support I have gotten from the blogosphere has been nothing short of incredible.
One unexpected result of my divorce post was that several readers subsequently sent me direct messages asking for advice as they too were in unhappy situations and were contemplating divorce.
Despite being one of the biggest threats to achieving financial independence, divorce is rarely discussed in the financial blogging community.
That was one of the reasons I wanted to give a platform for other divorcees to share their personal stories so that they could not only find a welcoming community for support but also have satisfaction knowing others will benefit from these examples while dealing with their own stressful situations.
This Survival Guide For Divorce was created in an attempt to provide a potential additional helpful resource.
Step I: The Assessment.
At a certain point in marriage, disagreements will invariably pop up.
Arguments can escalate and feelings hurt.
It is ill-advised to make a drastic decision such as filing for divorce while things are heated.
Rather you need to assess the marriage in its current state and ask yourself are you happy staying in this marriage or otherwise make the decision to extricate yourself from something you feel is becoming toxic.
If you feel helpless, trapped, or even worse physically or verbally abused, filing for divorce may be your only way out and allow you to start fresh again.
Myths For Staying Married:
I need to stay married for the sake of the children.
This was probably my greatest stumbling block before I filed for divorce.
I stayed married far longer than I should have and the main reason was I didn’t want my daughter to become a child of divorce.
This was the wrong line of thinking.
Children are incredibly perceptive and intuitive.
Prolonging a very unhealthy marriage was in fact detrimental to my daughter’s development as she was subjected to seeing her parents in a very unloving environment.
You want to provide your kids a positive role model and that includes how relationships should look like.
If all your kids see is fighting you are essentially telling them to just accept their fate if they find themselves in a similar situation.
Staying in an unhappy marriage for the sake of the children does more harm than good.
I am too old to get divorced.
I get it that at a certain age it becomes more difficult to adapt to change and divorce can be one of the biggest changes a person has to go through.
However age should not be a factor if you are truly unhappy.
If your only thought of finding happiness is to endure the marriage so that you can hopefully outlive your spouse, then regardless of age you need to entertain the idea for filing for divorce.
Life is too short to waste years in limbo/purgatory.
Just because you have gotten older does not mean you have given up your right to be happy.
With advances in medicine who knows how long you will have to subject yourself to a bad marriage.
Happiness, not age, should be the primary factor in deciding whether or not a divorce is a viable option.
My spouse controls the finances and I would be lost without him or her.
While this would not apply for a high income earning individual, I would be remiss not to include it for the broader audience.
This perceived barrier for the more financially dependent spouse can indeed be a daunting task to overcome.
The chancery court typically recognizes this dilemma and often makes concessions to the financially disadvantaged spouse during the time of filing till the divorce is finalized.
I was ordered to maintain spousal support and child support during this time as well as provide a lump sum at the beginning of the divorce proceedings so that my ex could have adequate living provisions.
The court can be petitioned to make financial provisions so that the financially disadvantaged spouse is not left out in the cold.
Lack of finances should not be a reason you are forced to stay in an unhappy marriage.
Step II: Getting Your Legal Counsel.
Getting the right lawyer for divorce is important.
If you are the one filing for divorce you have the time advantage.
You can take your time and do research about which lawyers have the best experience dealing with high net worth individuals.
If you have local friends and colleagues who have been previously divorced, it would be a good idea to reach out to them and ask if they would recommend the lawyer they used for your case.
If you are a high-net worth individual now is not the time to go bargain hunting.
Experienced lawyers typically command a premium hourly rate but in the long run can more than make up for it with a more favorable divorce decree.
Unlike a physician who gets a defined reimbursement for a service provided regardless of how much extra communication is required with the patient and other physicians, a lawyer is more like a taxi that has the meter running the moment you step in.
When you are in the initial stages of the divorce proceeding you will undoubtedly come up with multiple questions or ideas and your immediate instinct is to call your lawyer right away so that you can go over it or be reassured.
Fight that instinct!
As previously mentioned most lawyers have an hourly rate (mine were in the $250-300/hr range) but that does not mean your 5 min call gets you a 1/12 charge.
It may vary, but most lawyers have a minimum 1/4 hour charge for each and every communication they do with you.
If your phone call only lasted 5 minutes, well you are still getting charged for 15.
At $60+/call it adds up quite fast if you were like me and had ideas come at you all through the day or concerns pop up periodically.
My advice is to get a notepad and write down every question or concern for a week or more before you contact your lawyer so that you avoid multiple costly individual phone calls and get the full use of your 15 min minimum charge.
Same thing with email communications.
I am pretty sure I got charged the same way as I would by phone.
So if email is your preferred method of communication, again create one long one instead of multiple short emails as those charges can also rack up fast.
Step III: Planning for Expenses.
Apart from the lawyer costs, there are multiple other financial factors to consider so you can plan appropriately.
Although I have heard of cases where both parties remain in the marital home, this is typically the exception and not the norm.
My advice is to seek outside housing.
It is a stressful situation to be in sharing the same roof with the party you are in the process of divorcing.
The non-filing party will likely feel hurt or angry and it could be a ticking time bomb as these feelings get escalated during the proceeding.
This is NOT the time to set yourself up with the ultimate bachelor/bachelorette pad.
This living situation is temporary and now is the time to rough it out to minimize expenses (trust me the outflow of cash during this period will be quite high, especially if it is a contentious divorce like mine, so every effort to curb expenses will be of tremendous later benefit).
If you are the sole income earner or the higher earner of the two, expect the court to require financial support from you to the disadvantaged spouse.
Because the marital property was too large for my ex to maintain, she was the one that had to find a new place of residence.
I was required to pay $10k at the beginning so she could set up a household, pay $2100/mo spousal support (she did not work) and $2100/mo child support.
Opposing Counsel Costs:
I did not have to come up with this initially but when the divorce was finalized I was assessed a portion of the legal costs my wife incurred during the proceedings.
In my case, it was a little over $46k that was due within 60 days of the divorce decree.
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